Vaughan chastised the government for doing little analysis on the economic costs of implementing emissions regulations and paying little attention to whether measures from different governmental departments and different layers of government may clash.
Since Canada has opted for a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reducing greenhouse gases, officials need to pay close attention to how the rules will affect not just the targeted sectors, but other economic activity linked to those sectors, says Vaughan.
“This makes it vital to have a coherent game plan ensuring that policies do not operate at cross purposes and instead work to reach least-cost emissions reductions,” he said in an essay that prefaced the report.
The audit found that top officials have recently created a couple of committees that could lead to better co-ordination, but they are so new that they could not be assessed.
The report said there was little analysis of how much of the emissions burden each sector would be expected to carry, or how specific industries within in each sector would have to respond.
“Without clarifying these elements of its approach, Environment Canada cannot reasonably determine whether Canada will meet the 2020 target and how much it will cost to do so,” said the audit.
Vaughan pointed out that the Harper government pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol because it said the cost to the economy would be too high. So it should be able to show that its plan to regulate by sector would be cheaper.
But no. Vaughan found that analysis has not been done. “The result is that Parliament lacks a full picture of the combined costs of reaching the 2020 target.”
Businesses cannot plan without knowing federal expectations, the audit warned. “Without an implementation plan, industry, consumers and other levels of government lack a solid basis for knowing how to adjust technology and make formal investment decisions.”
The watchdog recommended that Environment Canada start producing detailed and specific plans on how it will reach its emissions targets. He also wants Ottawa to explain how it will align its measures with the United States, something the federal government says is vital.
Environment Canada responded by saying it agreed in principle with that recommendation, but argued that it already has the reporting mechanisms in place.
Vaughan also warned that the costs of past environmental mistakes are catching up with the federal government. Ottawa is staring at $7.7 billion in clean-up costs for contaminated sites, but has only set aside a fraction of the money, the audit found.
The biggest sites – including the Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories and the low-level radioactive waste sites in Port Hope, Ontario – are at the top of the priority list for cleanup, but they are eating up all the federal funding, said Vaughan.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Canadian Press correspondent Heather Scoffield, reporting from Ottawa, Canada, in context here: www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/auditor-slams-ottawa-for-coming-up-short-on-greenhouse-gas-targets/article2426136/